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UNC caught napping

Published: 
Thursday, June 7, 2018
PM rings by-election bell

The election bell has been rung for the electoral districts of Barataria in the San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation and Belmont East in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday advised President Paula Mae Weekes that both by-elections will be held on July 16.

Nomination day is June 25 and Rowley has requested that the President issue the Writs of Elections in accordance with the provisions of Section 29 of the Municipal Corporations Act Chapter 25:04.

The seats became vacant following the deaths of Councillor Pernell Bruno on July 8, 2017 and Councillor Darryl Rajpaul on November 18, 2017.

The ruling People’s National Movement has already screened and named Nicole Young as the candidate for Belmont East and Kimberly Rae-Ann Small for Barataria, but the Opposition United National Congress is yet to screen candidates.

UNC PRO UNC Anita Haynes told the T&T Guardian that the party has received “a significant number of nominations” and she expects screening of candidates will begin soon.

Haynes said the party was concerned with the length of time the PM had taken to call the by-elections, which in the case of Barataria is being held more than a year after the councillor’s death. She said the communities had been left without representation in the interim.

But Haynes said although the party is yet to screen candidates it has “had people on the ground in both communities.” She said there are coordinators in every area headed by Local Government councillors from surrounding areas.

In early April, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, addressing a Monday night forum, accused Rowley of breaking the law by not holding the by-elections and threatened to take him to court over the issue.

According to Section 29 of the Municipal Corporations Act, there is no specific time-frame by which a by-election is to be held.

However, Persad-Bissessar told the meeting the UNC had served Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi with two pre-action protocol letters instructing him to take action to have President Weekes issue a writ of election for the electoral districts.

Two days later on April 11, the ruling PNM announced that its screening committee had met on April 4 and 10 people were screened, five for each district and the committee had selected Young and Small.

Contacted yesterday, Elections and Boundaries Commission communications manager Dominic Hinds confirmed that the commission was putting things in place and will be ready for the July 16 by-elections. He said the EBC will announce a date for the commencement of electoral registration in both areas shortly.

Hinds said currently there are a total of 13,454 electors registered to vote in both electoral districts of Barataria and Belmont East. Of that number, 10,217 people are registered to vote in Barataria and 3,237 in Belmont East.

ABOUT THE DECEASED COUNCILLORS

PERNELL BRUNO

Local government elections were held on November 28, 2016.

In that election, Bruno, 52, won the Barataria electoral district for the PNM with 1898 votes, beating the UNC candidate by only 392 votes according to the official EBC results.

In the 2013 local government election, Bruno got 2,130 votes while the UNC’s Vijay Mahabir and the Independent Liberal Party’s (ILP) Lawrence Mark got a combined total of 2,177.

The UNC’s Harrylal Persad had previously been the electoral district’s councillor when he won in 2010, capturing 2,570 votes to the PNM’s Farid Hinds, who got 1,562 votes.

Bruno represented T&T at the CARIFTA and CAC games in athletics and earned an athletic scholarship to attend Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Bruno died on July 08, 2017 from cancer. His seat was declared vacant on July 26.

DARRYL RAJPAUL

Rajpaul won the Belmont East electoral district in the November 28, 2016 election, capturing 724 votes to the UNC’s 49 votes. He was in his third term as a Local Government councillor having first been elected in 2010.

Rajpaul, 51, died suddenly while playing a football match in November 2017.

In 2012, Rajpaul and the then mayor Louis Lee Sing launched the corporation’s small goal Champions League in an effort to draw the young people in the area away from crime.

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